Mindfully Consuming

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Dear Still Water Friends,

On a recent trip to France, I was pleased to discover the relatively small size of the ice cream scoops there. I’m a big fan of ice cream and in the summer I want to eat it all the time. On my trip, it was delightful to enjoy a small taste of a new flavor, to be really present for the cool treat, and to know in a moment it would be gone.

Upon my return, I went out for ice cream.  As I ate the larger American-size portion, I noticed that by the time I finished the scoop my mind had gone in a million directions. I didn’t really enjoy that luscious ice cream when my attention was elsewhere.

This Thursday we will address the Fifth Mindfulness training, which addresses the challenges of mindful consumption:

Nourishment and Healing

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I will practice looking deeply into how I consume the Four Kinds of Nutriments, namely edible foods, sense impressions, volition, and consciousness. I am determined not to gamble, or to use alcohol, drugs, or any other products which contain toxins, such as certain websites, electronic games, TV programs, films, magazines, books, and conversations. I will practice coming back to the present moment to be in touch with the refreshing, healing and nourishing elements in me and around me, not letting regrets and sorrow drag me back into the past nor letting anxieties, fear, or craving pull me out of the present moment. I am determined not to try to cover up loneliness, anxiety, or other suffering by losing myself in consumption. I will contemplate interbeing and consume in a way that preserves peace, joy, and well-being in my body and consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family, my society and the Earth.

It’s such a different experience to really slow down and focus on eating. I’m reminded of mealtime at retreats, which always seem like the most delicious and nourishing food I’ve ever eaten. There we make an effort to stop all other activities and just pay attention to our food. We often don’t even speak to each other as we eat. The calm attention that results seems to transform eating into a more engaging sensory experience—one that is enjoyable, but also one I’m ready to let go of once it’s done. Other times, when I’m not really paying attention, it can be hard to know when to begin eating and when to end.

In How to Eat, Thich Nhat Hanh invites us to be truly present with the process of consuming food. He writes,

Don’t chew your worries, your fear, or your anger. If you chew your planning and your anxiety, it’s difficult to feel grateful for each piece of food. Just chew your food.

In our society, with our busy lives and preoccupied minds, it can be challenging to bring this kind of attention to eating. This Thursday, we’ll discuss the Fifth Mindfulness Training and share our experiences of consuming mindfully or not.

Do we bring our full attention to consuming food (or anything else)?

What helps us be mindful of consumption? What seems to get in the way?

You are invited to join us.

An excerpt by Thich Nhat Hahn about mindfully eating an apple is below.

Warm wishes,


Rachel Phillips-Anderson

Eating the Apple
from Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life by Thich Nhat Hanh and Lilian Cheung

The first thing is to give your undivided attention to eating the apple. When you eat the apple, just concentrate on eating the apple. Don’t think of anything else. And most important, be still. Don’t eat the apple while you are driving. Don’t eat it while you are walking. Don’t eat it while you are reading. Just be still. Being focused and slowing down will allow you to truly savor all the qualities the apple offers: its sweetness, aroma, freshness, juiciness, and crispness.

When you chew, know what you are chewing. Chew slowly and completely, twenty to thirty times for each bite. Chew consciously, savoring the taste of the apple and its nourishment, immersing yourself in the experience 100 percent. This way, you really appreciate the apple as it is. And as you become fully aware of eating the apple, you also become fully aware of the present moment. You become fully engaged in the here and now. Living in the moment, you can really receive what the apple offers you, and you become more alive.